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An Introduction to Open Source


What is Open Source?

Open Source is often defined as, “something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.” The term “open source” is typically applied to technology projects, products, and software. For instance, in development, open-source software uses source code that can be modified collaboratively by a team of developers.


Things that are Open Source typically celebrate principles of:

  • Open Exchange

  • Collaborative Participation

  • Rapid Prototyping

  • Transparency

  • Meritocracy

  • Community-Oriented Development


When people hear the words, “Open Source” they sometimes think that just means it’s free of charge. And while most open-source projects are free to use, having knowledge in their use can be very valuable. With enough experience and knowledge, you can consult and help others with their projects, and employers often seek to hire programmers with open-source projects in their portfolios.


Having experience using a code repository (a place to store source code with version control like GitHub or GitLab) is a desirable skill in more and more working environments, as well as experience working with languages common in open-source environments like Javascript, Python, PHP, and Rust (along with so many others!) Open-source principles are being embraced in development at Microsoft, people are creating open-source virtual reality environments at Meta, and many open-source Web3 projects are currently underway.


Some widely adopted open-source projects that you’ve probably already heard of: WordPress for building websites, Firefox for browsing the web, Blender for creating digital 3D environments and objects, MySQL for building a database, and Linux for an operating system.


Who is Open Source?

A 2017 GitHub survey found that only 3% of the contributors to their repository were women.

An earlier survey had come in at 10%, but that was when they included non-technical projects on the site. This tells us that women are contributing more to non-technical projects than technical projects, but barely.


Even within the local tech community here in Minnesota, we have found that women tend to be hesitant to get involved with open-source communities, and even the idea of learning how to use a repository, like GitHub, has sparked fear and evoked ideas that they’re not “smart enough” to work with it. There is much speculation as to why that happens, with some critics saying that many open-source communities have shown hostility to women and driven them away with their attitudes and cultures.


We recently sat down with two Women in Tech, Casie Siekman and Jenn Bonine, to discuss their experience within the open-source community and the work they’ve been a part of that challenges those stereotypes, in hopes to get more people involved in the open-source movement and technology in general.



What’s next?

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